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Independent middle School entry for boy from state comprehensive. Remote chance??

(35 Posts)
Annabellina Tue 12-Nov-13 12:46:29

Hi - Has anyone any experience of this situation? My ds is in Yr 8 at our local all boys comp in South London and we were pleased when he got a place there. Many of his friends went there and generally a lot more children of educated parents were in the mix. Great arts provision, his passion is music, and he is provided with some good opportunities and is well supported. School also excels in dance, drama etc. He seems to be making some progress in the subjects that they are effectively streamed in, but the school does not seem to stretch him at all and he is - as is quite normal amongst teenage boys - pretty lazy about doing just what is asked and NO MORE. He is very dyslexic, but highly articulate and imaginative and I think school just think he is doing fine, considering. I am absolutely sure he has more to offer and to discover within the academic sphere (humanities - he's never going to be brilliant at maths). The school has quite a lot of playground aggro, so much so that two of his best friends left last year (for an alternative state school). His best friend is moving abroad forever at Christmas. He can generally handle the aggro, he's small but surprisingly strong (he's a gymnast and drummer so very developed) but it definitely adds a layer of tension to his days. I have just cracked and thought he should have a shot at our local private schools which are highly selective. We deliberately didn't pursue it for year 7 on ideological grounds, plus we couldn't have afforded it. Now I'll sell a kidney or something and hurl my principles into the compost, but we've left it so late. Not sure if we can even secure the services of a tutor for the next 6 weeks - they're all booked up. However, he simply won't have covered all the curriculum that the prep school boys will have.... Is it just an absurd thought? He has mixed feelings. Likes the prospect of a electric guitar bribe but not sure about the upheaval, the going to a 'posh' school thang (both his parents were privately educated), change of friendships, MASSES OF HOMEWORK (currently gets virtually none). Likes the thought of ' a less hectic atmosphere', oh and one of them is co-ed and he likes the idea of the girls.... Any thoughts would be very gratefully received.

scaevola Tue 12-Nov-13 12:51:42

Is he actually registered for any schools? Lists are closing.

But yes, it's worth a shot. Tutoring might not make that much difference now, but yes he needs to ge familiarised with the exam formats and style of questions and working through specimen papers (and the books of Bond papers) will definitely be worth it, and either you or a tutor can do that. A good tutor should also be able to improve exam technique generally. Even ifthey spot gaps in eg maths, there might not be time to fix them properly, but every little helps.

Annabellina Tue 12-Nov-13 13:41:47

Yes we have two weeks left to register him and have a visit arranged for the end of this week. Thanks for your comments. I think we'll do some practice papers and give it a go and just see what happens. It will help me see clearly for myself where some of his gaps are even if he stays on at his current school.

SonorousBip Tue 12-Nov-13 13:52:21

I actually think you are in quite a good position - give it a go on a "why not" basis, no stewing or pressure in advance and if he does not get in you will know you gave it a shot but he is not majorly upset. And if he does get in you don't have to take it up if he really does not want to go or you can't afford it, but it will clarify your thinking.

I would spend the time just making sure you know what the exam paper are going to look like (length, format tc), and if there are any discrete areas he has not covered, try to do those, but not attempt a wholesale re-teach as that will only be confusing. Also, do not you or he be fazed by the papers - they will be hard - but you just have to do what you can.

(Am with you on the 12 year old DS who manages to finely callibrate his output to do exactly what is required and not a whisker more hmm and I agree that him being at a school which requires quite a lot is his saving grace ATM hmm)

GetMeOut Tue 12-Nov-13 14:01:28

If he is a drummer and a gymnast that might help offset any academic gaps as some selectives are keen to recruit musical and sporting talent. Maybe worth seeking if he would meet any of the sporting and/or music scholarship criteria of your chosen schools

SthingMustBeScaringThemAway Tue 12-Nov-13 15:00:19

It's certainly worth giving it a go.

I was going to say that if he currently has very little homework it's not as if he can say he's being overworked - but have you double checked how much homework he should be going? Given what you say about doing the minimum. Some children can be a little elastic about the truth regarding homework set....

It's good that he seems to be fine but almost no homework in year 8 is not the best preparation for GCSEs and A Levels.

If you say which school(s) you're thinking of you'll probably find people here with specific experience.

SthingMustBeScaringThemAway Tue 12-Nov-13 15:02:10

"should be doing...."

Annabellina Wed 13-Nov-13 13:28:56

Thanks very much for your contributions. I think we will give it a go and see what happens.... the Ed Psych we used 5 years ago with his initial diagnosis is miraculously available - a cancellation - in time to get report to accompany registration in two weeks. Without it he would not be able to use a laptop (essential) or have extra time (his idea of hell, but useful). I've clearly gone barmy and see it as a sort of omen that we should proceed. The poor lad also injured himself for the umpteenth time at training last night ( he has only just recovered from a back injury which pretty much took him out of gym for some months) and was practically in tears this morning at the prospect of having to contend with the crazy corridors of feral badmen on a crutch. (That's so unfair - not all the kids are like this of course, and he mostly can handle it, just very wobbly this morning). We are going to tackle one of the comprehension papers tonight and he is quite enjoying doing practice of the reasoning papers. Maths will be a different kettle of fish. We'll see. Anyway - I feel very bolstered by your contributions. Thank you. I've never posted before.

LittleSiouxieSue Wed 13-Nov-13 15:52:38

I would say go for it as others have. I would sound a couple of notes of caution though . Do make sure that highly selective schools accommodate dyslexic children to your satisfaction. Be certain their SEN provision is not just highlighted to parents to get them hooked into the school and then the provision is not as good as advertised. Highly selective and dyslexic may not go that well together in the world of independent schools. Also be aware that not all children at independent school are pleasant. Just because people have money,it does not mean their offspring are what you would expect at an independent school. Times have changed.

urbancupcake Wed 13-Nov-13 19:00:38

The schools you're going for are really important so you'll need to say for more specific advice. As you're based in SE London and it's Whitgift and Trinity for example, they set their own English, Maths and VR for 13+ entry I believe; whereas I think the others do Common Entrance exams which the prep schools have been preparing the children for and my understanding is that is a whole new ball game. I'm sure it would be next to impossible to plug that in a few weeks, therefore, but others should be along soon to clarify.

purpleroses Wed 13-Nov-13 19:10:04

2 children left my DS's school last year at the end of Y8 to go to a v selective private school. I'm wondering if we should have given it a go too but really are too late now. I don't know how much preparation they did but they were medium bright - middle of the top set (a set is top third of the year) according to DS.

Helpyourself Wed 13-Nov-13 19:16:20

It depends on the school- very very few places at Alleyns, good chance for Dulwich Emmanuel and St Dunstan's. the day will be longer, but that's not necessarily a bad thing as there's time to fit everything in, but consider travel time!

Annabellina Mon 03-Feb-14 15:41:09

A little update. Ds managed to do some extra maths over Christmas (nearly killed both of us) and sat 13+ exams for Alleyns and Dulwich College. Alleyns was no-go (unsurprising - they were only taking about 10 children) but Dulwich have offered him an interview on Wednesday. We are very proud he has got this far, but thrown into even further confusion by the possibility that they may actually offer him a place. He is beginning to say that he thinks he would like to go, but I am slightly horrified at the lack of social mix and what that means for the breadth of his education. On the plus side, I think their learning support is very good. We have just had to deal with a major violent bullying issue at his current school and though he can handle it with a certain equanimity I am not sure i can. The fundamental issue of how unfair it all is bothers me tremendously. Thank you very much for your helpful comments.

meditrina Mon 03-Feb-14 15:58:52

Congratulations to your DS!

Unfortunately, I can't thinkof anything that would help your dilemma. You'll already know that it's bursary provision is one of the more generous, but of course the majority of pupils are full-fee (some affording it comfortably, some making sacrifices and scraping by, some supported by grandparents etc). And you could go for another look around on an ordinary day, but you probably won't see it that differently from earlier look arounds.

If private school is against your principles, then that is what you have to reconcile with the eventual decision.

StressedandFrazzled Mon 03-Feb-14 16:12:07

Go for it. Don't worry too much about your principles. Yes it is unfair, and it would be more fair if everyone had access to the best education, but you're half way there now, so you have obviously thought about it a great deal and decided to go for it anyway. My DS is also in Year 8 at london Independent. He arrived in Year 7 from a state primary, and I know he has enough foundation from that experience to understand that not all the best people come from rich privileged backgrounds. And like someone else said, some parents scrape the fees together, others are supported by grandparents or bursaries etc etc.

ChazsBrilliantAttitude Mon 03-Feb-14 18:29:14


You can only work within the system that exists at the moment. Yes, in an ideal world all schools would be equally good and well resourced but currently they are not. Consquently, as a parent will all do our best to navigate through the options available to us to get the best outcome for our children.

Good luck to your DS for his interview. If he gets a place its because he has earned it and whatever the result you should be proud of him for getting his head down and preparing well.

WorkingItOutAsIGo Mon 03-Feb-14 21:22:26

Well done to you both! Have you helped him prepare for the interview - nothing terribly sophisticated but think about obvious questions and make sure he has answers at the top of his mind, and remembers the great things about himself that he wants to get over to them. Lots of helpful threads on here and a couple of hours preparation can really help. Remind him he must not be embarrassed to talk about what he is good at! Good luck.

Annabellina Mon 03-Feb-14 23:18:56

Thank you very much for your supportive comments and congratulations to ds. Don't worry, we are very proud of him, (and he has been royally rewarded) that he has been able to focus sufficiently to get this far - really no mean feat for a squirmy, severe dyslexic who only really wants to be doing backflips or rocking out on his drum kit. As an exercise in increasing his study stamina it has been immensely useful. We only decided to pursue this in the middle of November so he really has not had much time to prepare. They tell us that the boys will be asked to read a passage before the interview, so presumably there follows some sort of comprehension viva. We have been reading from a selection of texts over the last few nights and discussing them. He's pretty good on current affairs, fairly articulate about his academic interests. But, yes, as you suggested WorkingItOut, getting him to big himself up over some of his achievements is proving to be the most difficult bit! I think he wants to go now, pretty unequivocally, and, if he is offered a place, that decides us. My fears and scruples will be overridden, quite properly.

WorkingItOutAsIGo Tue 04-Feb-14 10:58:43

Wishing him lots of luck!

Annabellina Fri 14-Feb-14 15:44:17

Just to finish off this saga and to thank you very much your comments... have come home to discover that ds has been offered a Yr 9 place at Dulwich College. Very proud of his achievement but utterly thrown by the dilemma.... is it really the better school for him?

gingerbeard Fri 14-Feb-14 16:35:51

I doubt if you would have gone to so much trouble if you didn't (in your heart of hearts) know that it IS the better school for him. Congratulations to your son. You're only really looking at private education til 16 - then he could easily switch back into the state system for sixth form.

yotty Fri 14-Feb-14 16:46:29

If you don't go for it you will always wonder whether you missed an opportunity. I would go for it and tell yourself you can always change back to state system after GCSE's if you don't feel it is right.
Regarding the principle, well it's not a fair world. Your child has already benefitted from your ability to pay for gymnastics and drums. A child in poverty wouldn't have that opportunity. Similarly, I bet you have bought him books, there must be plenty of kids who can only go to the library. Choosing a private school is just taking that a step further.
I also think that having offered him the opportunity it would be really unfair on him to tell him that he can't go because of your principles.

WorkingItOutAsIGo Fri 14-Feb-14 17:18:32

Huge congratulations to your DS! Obviously the school feels it is the right place for him and that he would thrive there. You started this because things weren't so good at his current school so it is worth giving this one a shot. No one can say it's right until you've tried it but you know the current one isn't!

miss600 Fri 14-Feb-14 17:18:42

Sometimes this talk about "principles" when it comes to state vs private is a red herring. The reality is that some parents (not saying you fall in this category though) hide behind "principles" to shield themselves from the guilt they feel about not being prepared to scrimp and sacrifice luxuries to pay for private education and so find it easier to criticise the "principles" of others who do so to justify their own choices.

This is real life and unfortunately there will always be inequalities: being rich or poor, having black or white skin, being male or female, disabled or able-bodied, ugly or beautiful, tall or short genes, naturally gifted or not, and most of all having competent or neglectful parents.

Private vs state education is just another factor that probably has less impact on how kids fare than most of the above.

Just do what you think is best for your individual child and your family and be honest with yourself about it.

And congratulations on his achievement!

Taz1212 Sat 15-Feb-14 10:28:27

Congratulation to your son! We were in a vaguely similar position. DH and his family had massive objections to our sending DS to a private school this year. DS had been in the local state school but high school was approaching and for many reasons I was determined that he would not go to the local catchment school.

At every step, DH fought me on the decision to go private. His family were (and still are) very vocal with their objections because of their moral objections to private education. DS started at his new school in August and it is the best decision we have ever made. The difference is like night and day and even DH is completely won over! shock His family are still quite awful about it but DS and I can handle that.

Best of luck with the decision, but if you've gone this far, I suspect deep down you think this school is probably best for your son. grin

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